The Adverse Effects of Green Lawns

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The Adverse Effects of Green Lawns An Essay By Mekan Melyayev English Composition 121 February 26, 2002 Essay: The adverse effects of green lawns. Lush, green, beautiful lawns surround almost every house in my suburban neighborhood. Green lawns are part of suburban culture. Few people consider the idea of not having one. The Associated Landscape Contractors of America, a trade group, claims, "A properly installed and maintained lawn gives homeowners a 100 to 200 percent return on their investment and increases overall property values in the neighborhood" ( Conversely, a poorly maintained lawn reduces property values for the neighborhood. Thus it makes sense to believe that people who own lavish, evenly trimmed, green lawns with no weeds or

insect pests are good neighbors and responsible citizens. This, however, doesn’t mean that a nation of neighborhoods with such lawns is a nation of good neighbors and responsible citizens. Such neighborhoods come with a hidden cost to society and to future generations. All homeowners know the price they personally pay to maintain their lawn. But they might not know that, far from being a harmless means of beautifying homes, the maintenance of lavish lawns has at least four serious consequences for society: pesticide toxicity, fertilizer runoff, water consumption and greenhouse gas production. Each year, 67 million pounds of pesticides are used on lawns across the United States. This is about five to nine pounds of pesticide per acre of lawn (Daniels Stivie, The Green Lawn

Handbook, 8). Pesticides are chemicals that are used to kill insects that live in grass. Even though few people consider pesticides to be toxic or harmful to humans, U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said “chemicals used in lawn care may cause cancer, nerve damage, liver and kidney damage, birth defects, and even death.” (The Use and Regulations of Lawn Care Chemicals, 2) Not many people are aware that lawn pesticides can be lethal. In a Senate Hearing on the subject of pesticides, Thomas Prior of Maplewood, Virginia talked about the death of his brother after exposure to pesticides. “He became grotesquely swollen; enormous blisters appeared on his body; one by one his organs failed; his skin sloughed off and he became blind. The pain was ceaseless and after fourteen

excruciating days, he died.” (The Use and Regulation of Lawn Care Chemicals, 21) Lawn pesticides are harmful to wildlife, too. If pesticides can kill a human being, then we can imagine what they can do to wildlife. Seeing geese, squirrels, prairie dogs, and rabbits is quite normal in suburbia. These and many other animals naturally feed on grass, and lawns might seem to be excellent food sources for them. Diazinon (a type of pesticide) was banned in 1986, because it resulted in the death of songbirds, waterfowl, eagles, and other birds of prey (Daniels Stivie The Wild Lawn Handbook, 6). Lawns don’t absorb all the pesticides applied to them. The rest are washed into the water table, where they contaminate the drinking water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency,

pesticides have been found in the groundwater of dozens of states (The Use and Regulations of Lawn Care Chemicals, 10). This causes an increase in the price of drinking water, because the government has to spend more money on purification. Fertilizer runoff is another major problem. According to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only about 50% of the nitrogen and phosphorous in fertilizer is utilized by plants. The rest is dissolved in the groundwater. When this runs into rivers, it causes tremendous growth in the number of bacteria and microscopic plants suspended in the water. These organisms use the oxygen which would normally be available for marine life. The portion of the Gulf of Mexico which receives the effluent of the Mississippi River is so